Paying for sexual services

It is a crime in Northern Ireland to pay for sex. This means it is illegal to pay or promise to pay someone for sex, either directly or through another person. Under the law, payment can mean money, goods or services.

Paying for sex

The sexual services which are illegal involve you being physically present with the person who is selling the sexual service.

If you are found guilty of paying for sex you could be made to pay a fine, or be sent to prison for up to a year, or in some cases both.

It is a much more serious offence to pay for sexual services from anyone under the age of 18. If the child is:

  • under 13 the maximum penalty is life imprisonment
  • under 16 the maximum sentence is 14 years
  • under 18 but over 16 the maximum penalty is seven years

Find out more about the legislation on paying for sexual services.

Sex workers

It is not a crime to sell sexual services in Northern Ireland. It is also not a crime to loiter or solicit for the purposes of offering services as a prostitute in a street or public place.

It is however a crime to keep or manage a brothel or to control prostitution for profit. If this involves anyone under the age of 18 the penalties can be up to 14 years imprisonment.

Getting help and support

The Commercial Sex Worker Service, run by the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, provides health care and support to sex workers.

If you’re worried about your sexual health, you can read information on places to get help and advice:

If think you might have a sexually transmitted infection (STI) you can get tested at your nearest Genitourinary Medicine (GUM)clinic.

If you are a victim of sexual exploitation, there are organisations that can help you.

More useful links

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